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Barry Town United
Jenner Park, Barry
Barry Town United is a supporter-owned community football club, with a dual purpose of continuing over a century of senior football in Barry at Jenner Park and giving the town’s youth opportunities to progress.Senior football has been played in Barry since the late 1800s, where a host of teams using the Barry name battled for regional supremacy. In 1892, a club named Barry District was formed and began a decade of football under various names and at numerous grounds in the town. Notable players who featured during this time included Ted Vizard and Billy Jennings; both would play in the famous ‘White Horse’ FA Cup Final of 1923.
In November 1912, a meeting at the Windsor Hotel (still standing in Holton Road), saw townsfolk choose to pursue membership of the thriving Southern League, as Barry AFC. The populous of Barry also contributed significantly to the building of Jenner Park, with the first match on 6th September 1913 against Mid-Rhondda United. A crowd of over 4,000 saw the home team win 2-1 and the ensuing seasons would see the likes of Stoke, Coventry and Brentford visit the new ground. Unfortunately, it would not be long before the Great War interrupted competitive games; with Barry AFC captain Jim Wightman among many casualties of the conflict.1920-21 proved to be a season of landmark success, as Barry AFC’s “wonder team”, led by keeper, manager and secretary Bill Bowen, won the Southern League’s Welsh Section; despite playing over 100 games in all competitions. It was hoped this success would lead to membership of the Football League, but Charlton Athletic and Aberdare Athletic were elected instead.
Barry AFC continued within the Southern League set-up. Among the players of this era were Johnny Gardner (500+ appearances), Dai Ward (300+goals) and Fred Whitlow (100+ goals). Meanwhile, Barry born, Ernie Carless combined football in Barry with a successful cricketing career with Glamorgan. At the end of the decade, a crowd in excess of 6,000 at Upton Park saw Barry AFC beat Dagenham 1-0 to progress to the FA Cup 2nd Round, where they lost to Brighton & Hove Albion. Barry AFC would reach the 1st Round again in 1935-35, losing out to Northampton Town. The build- up to the game had been interrupted when a fire ravaged the grandstand.
Football took a back seat again in 1939, with the onset of the Second World War. During this period, Barry AFC’s Chris Mason became a POW, but returned to Jenner Park after the war to resume his football career. After World War II, those that had played as Barry AFC became Barry Town AFC; with players such as Derek Tapscott, Stan Richards and Gwilym “Cannonball” Cain joining the cause. In the 1949-50 season, Jenner Park became one of the first grounds in the country to introduce floodlights, with Newport, Swansea and Cardiff all visiting to showcase the facilities. Two seasons later, an all-Welsh showdown in the FA Cup 1st Round saw Barry Town outclassed by Newport County 4-0. Nevertheless, the town’s most celebrated footballing achievement was right around the corner. In May 1955, after a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse in Wrexham, Barry Town beat Chester City 4-3 at Ninian Park to lift the Welsh Cup for the first time. Former Chelsea midfielder Charlie Dyke scored the winner, with a dramatic late free kick.
In the late 1950s, a host of Scandinavians made their way to Jenner Park and dazzled the locals with their skills. Among their number were Finnish star Hannu Kankkonnen and IFK Gothenburg legend Bengt ‘Fölet’ Berndtsson, a member of the Sweden squad that reached the 1958 World Cup Final. Another FA Cup 1st Round appearance came in 1960-61, when QPR visited Jenner Park. A crowd of 7,000+ almost witnessed an upset, but Laurie Sheffield’s goal for the home side was cancelled out late on. QPR won replay comfortably days later. There was little success in the 1960s and 70s, but a host of personalities, including Ken Gully, Clive Ayres and brothers John and Dickie Batt are remembered fondly at Jenner Park.
In 1982, Barry Town would leave the Southern League, focusing on Welsh League competition and winning 6 Welsh League titles before the decade’s end; thanks in no small part to the goals of Steve Williams and the grit of long-serving Ashley Griffiths and Bobby Smith. The biggest match in Barry all decade came on 17 Nov 84, where 3,850 crammed into Jenner Park to watch Barry Town v Reading in the FA Cup 1st Rd. Despite Ian Love‘s goal, an injury-time winner by Trevor Senior was enough to send the Royals through. 1989 saw a return to England, as Barry Town entered the Southern League’s Midland Division. They would consistently finish in the top six. However, the creation of the League of Wales in 1992 prompted a decree that Barry Town would no longer be able to compete in the English pyramid from their Jenner Park base.
Barry Town orchestrated a way for the team to continue in England; playing as ‘Barri’ out of Worcester City’s St. George’s Lane. An original sign from the ground has recently been salvaged and brought to Barry. The exile though would last only one season; O’ Halloran performed a u turn that saw Barry Town accepted into the Welsh League Division One for the 1993/94 campaign. In 93/94, Barry Town won a domestic quadruple, earning promotion to the League of Wales and winning a famous Welsh Cup Final against Cardiff City at the National Stadium. The building of a brand new stand at Jenner Park followed a first League of Wales championship in 1996; thus enabling the ground to host European matches that autumn. In 1996 after winning their opening tie in Latvia, Barry Town beat Budapest Vasutas on penalties at a packed Jenner Park to progress to the 1st Round proper of the UEFA Cup. Their opponents were Aberdeen and classic battles at Pittodrie and Jenner Park ensued. Sadly, O’ Halloran had passed away months prior.
In 2001, Barry Town won in Azerbaijan to set up a UEFA Champions League qualifier with FC Porto. After being trounced 8-0 in Portugal, Peter Nicholas’ side won 3-1 at Jenner Park. However, this golden era would not last forever, and Barry Town were relegated from the League of Wales in 2004 after going into administration. A most turbulent period would begin, and prospects for Barry Town looked bleak until the appointment of Gavin Chesterfield as manager in the summer of 2007. In 2012/13, after years of steady progress, Chesterfield’s Barry Town team enjoyed Welsh Cup success once more; progressing to the semi-finals, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Prestatyn Town. This resurgence was halted when the owner of Barry Town AFC Ltd. withdrew the team from the Welsh League less than a month later. However, the supporters, who had been operating the football team for several seasons, outlined their will to continue fielding a side in the Welsh League, with the same players and manager. In August 2013, the High Court granted them entry to Division Three of the Welsh League - ensuring that the colourful story of Barry senior football could continue, this time under the new name of Barry Town United.
In its 1st season in Division 3 the Club gained promotion to Division 2 scoring over 100 goals. The success continued in 2014-15 with the winning of the 2nd Division Championship putting the Club back into Division One just 2 years after being withdrawn from it, a remarkable achievement.